Jul. 27, 2016 | By Larissa Allen
3 Hidden Details Inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is known for being the ‘Sistine of the South’ for good reason – it’s filled with elaborate stained glass, tall marble-like columns and a presence that takes your breath away. One of the most important features of the Cathedral is the church’s 34 murals.
The murals, which are actually oil on canvas paintings transferred to the church walls, date back to 1912. The murals have gone through a lot over the years, but with proper preservation and care, they’re still clear to see.
Tours of the Cathedral and its murals take place almost daily. To make the most out of mural viewing, pay close attention to the following features.
Each mural has an important saint or figure, but instead of focusing only on the facial features, take a closer look at the details. Many saints are holding items like palm leaves, keys, and body parts – symbolizing different themes, deaths, and biblical stories. Not sure what a particular item symbolizes? Ask a Cathedral tour guide – they’re knowledgeable about mural facts and trivia.
The headless saint
Saint Dennis of France is headless – but you can see him holding his head in his hands. People didn’t like the way he was preaching, so they cut off his head. Rumor has it that he picked it up and kept walking!
Saint Lucy holding a plate of…
Saint Lucy is depicted with her eyes shut – because she is holding her eyeballs on a plate. Saint Lucy was a martyr, and her eyeballs were gouged out prior to her execution.
The Native American
Saint Isaac Jogues was the first North American martyr. He was ministering to the Native Americans in New York and southern Canada, and was captured by the Mohawk tribe and killed. It’s not often that you’ll see a person dressed in Native American garments in a Catholic church, which is what makes this mural especially interesting.
Tours of the Cathedral are free, but donations for upkeep and art preservation are most welcomed. To see more of the Cathedral and its murals, check out the video below:
Larissa Allen is Visit Savannah’s social media coordinator. She received her BA in English and Professional Communications from Armstrong State University. Larissa is a Savannah native, and is addicted to watermelon juice from the Forsyth Farmers’ Market.